Michigan Valley is nestled just southeast of Nebraska Notch, far enough off of the beaten path that even some locals have forgotten about it, but not so far that it's inconvenient. The 300-mile Catamount Trail bisects the valley, linking to the Bolton Valley Nordic Center and continuing on to the Trapp Family Lodge Touring Center. Despite this, backcountry skiers and riders coming from either of these places don't have a significant impact on the ability to find fresh lines in the valley due to its size and many aspects.
The easiest way to access the most vertical in Michigan Valley is actually to start at the Bolton Valley Nordic Center, touring up and over the ridge and following the Catamount Trail north east. This requires a fee, as well as a 40-minute one-way shuttle.
A much better option, if you're willing to work for it, is to park at the Catamount Trail Trailhead on Nebraska Valley Road just east of Lake Mansfield. From here the Catamount Trail is often well packed by frequent visitors as it leads up into Michigan Valley. After about half a mile of gradual climbing, backcountry skiers and riders will reach the floor of the main valley. The trail flattens and several open bowls come into view.
The ridge on the north side of the valley is most accessible, offering several short but sweet shots of about 400 vertical feet on the south facing side and slightly longer descents toward Lake Mansfield on the north-facing side. It's easy to get cliffed out on the north aspect, so use caution.
Continuing upward and westward into the valley, ridgelines and open snowfields become more pronounced. Unfortunately, significant elevation gain doesn't occur until about a mile in. This is especially cumbersome for snowboarders, as the runout along the Catamount Trail isn't quite steep enough to easily ride out.
Ridgeline routes to 3,143-foot Mount Mayo can be found, offering some of the best descents through a mix of birch and maple. Bolton Mountain, a separate peak from the resort, is another popular destination with an elevation of 3,684 feet.
Overall, the wide variety of terrain and many aspects of the valley offer something for everyone, and it can be a great place for people new to touring, as the Catamount Trail offers a clear landmark.
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.